The 21st century has seen major shifts in the international balance of forces. The emergence of new economic power houses has moulded these shifts. Multipolarity is slowly but steadily emerging as a hallmark of new international relations. Asia, particularly South East Asia has made important gains on the road to economic progress. China has clearly achieved impressive socioeconomic development in the last few decades. It has been able to take millions and millions of its people out of poverty by building a vast industrial base, gigantic modern infrastructure and develop modern technology. China has made all these achievements by peaceful means. Not only that. China has also a clear vision for regional and international economic cooperation. The most important expression of this vision is the idea of Belt & Road Initiative. It means working together to build the Silk Road Economic Belt. This idea was put forward by Mr. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China at 13th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit and during his visit to the four Central Asian countries. It is a proactive initiative for the socioeconomic transformation of the countries along the ancient Silk Road that used to connect East and South Asia, through Central Asia to Europe. It includes the land based Silk Road Economic Belt that connects China with Europe through Eurasian region, and the seaborne Maritime Silk Road that ultimately reaches Africa, Europe and continent of America.
It goes without saying that connectivity is a pre requisite for building Belt & Road. It can very well be the biggest project of building infrastructure and creating connectivity in modern history. Countries involved in B & Road need to adopt the spirit of this monumental project.The policy of confrontation will have to be replaced by the policy of cooperation. This is a historical opportunity for a transition from emphasis on geo strategic to opting for geo economic. The states have to realize that they cannot achieve all this without investing in human beings. They can’t ignore the social sector anymore. Investing in the education of children is the best investment that nations and countries can make for their future. Adopting a policy direction will require a rethink in many areas. For example a number of Asian countries including Pakistan are are faced with the challenge of creating a synthesis between tradition and modernity. Now this something that almost every human society of the world has/will pass through. The best way to meet this challenge is conduct a peaceful dialogue for evolving the synthesis. But in some cases the extremists threaten to to disrupt the peaceful dialogue by various distortions and falsifications. They misuse religious slogans to polarize societies. The remnants of the Cold War jump at the opportunity as spoilers. But there are best international practices of adopting an inclusive approach and conducting peaceful dialogue to learn from. Educational curricula, media and opinion makers can make valuable contribution in developing tolerance and mindset for peaceful coexistence.
Pakistan-China relationship is unique in the sense that it has withstood all the ups and downs of regional and international politics, including the eras of the Cold War and the so called war on terror. Many dramatic turns appeared on the road in this long journey where any weak relations could not have survived. But since both sides were determined to to maintain the relations and demonstrated mutual confidence and respect, therefore, the bond of friendship didn’t rupture.The China Pakistan Economic Corridor ( CPEC) has introduced a strong socioeconomic dimension in the already deep friendship between the two countries. The CPEC is regarded as a flagship project in the implementation of BRI, as it lies at the junction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. As pointed out by President Xi Jinping in April 2015, CPEC is expected to play an important role in promoting bilateral economic cooperation, with focus on Gawadar Portland developing infrastructure, energy and industrial parts along the Corridor. The initial stage of CPEC has been successfully implemented. There is CPEC Forum which holds annual meetings among state authorities, parliamentarians, think tanks, local as well as corporate delegates.
The success of 2nd BRF held in April this year in Beijing with the participation of 37 heads of states an government and 5000 delegates from 150 countries and 90 international organizations is testimony to the growing confidence in and support for B & R by vast number of countries and nations around the globe.
Written by: Afrasiab Khattak (Pakistan-China Institute)